Forgotten Dreams and Misplaced Revolutions is a 2017-2018 John E. Sawyer Seminar on the Comparative Study of Culture sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and housed at Brandeis University. Led by Professors Naghmeh Sohrabi and Greg Childs, the seminar focuses on revolutionary turmoil over the course of the last century in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Middle East. In the century between the Mexican Revolution of 1910 and the Tunisian Revolution of 2010, a host of other revolutions unfolded that likewise succeeded in overturning established regimes in these parts of the globe. Yet in comparative studies of revolutions, many of these revolutionary events are forgotten, renamed, or marked as local conflicts that are relegated to their national histories.

This graduate seminar funded by the Mellon foundation, is framed by three questions:

  • Why are some revolutions deemed more global and thus more significant than others?
  • Should the cluster of late twentieth century revolutions be conceptualized by scholars as a forgotten age of revolutions, one that much like its late 18th and early 19th centuries counterpart, had reverberations that last until today?
  • And, what is at stake in this new conceptualization of revolutions beyond the exercise of recovering silenced or neglected narratives?

To answer these questions, the seminar will bring together the disciplines of anthropology, sociology, political science, comparative literature, history, and performance studies to bear on six case studies:

Over the 2017-2018 academic year, we will anchor our interdisciplinary exchange in four crucial and connected thematic threads.